The Serpent of Slytherin was a female Basilisk that was placed by Salazar Slytherin in the Chamber of Secrets at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The Basilisk could only be controlled by the Heir of Slytherin, Tom Riddle. Other Parselmouths (such as Harry Potter) had no control over her, though they still could understand her.
Aragog (a rare Acromantula) was accused of being the monster of the chamber by Tom Riddle which sent Hagrid to Azkaban. His name was later cleared and he was allowed back in Hogwarts. The giant serpent was eventually slain by Harry Potter in May of 1993.
Birth and early years
Salazar Slytherin's Basilisk was born in the Chamber of Secrets, as revealed by Aragog when asked about the creature. Slytherin, in his spite of his fellow Hogwarts founders' acceptance of Muggle-borns into the school, left a Basilisk deep in the Chamber in the hope that one day, his true heir would unleash her to purge all those he deemed were unworthy to study magic at Hogwarts.
First opening of the Chamber of Secrets
- "But I know one thing — last time the Chamber of Secrets was opened, a Mudblood died."
- — Draco Malfoy regarding the first opening[src]
In 1943, the Chamber of Secrets was opened by a Slytherin fifth-year named Tom Riddle, who was able to control the Basilisk through his status as the Heir of Slytherin. Riddle unleashed the Basilisk on the school, with his goal of ridding the school of all of its Muggle-borns. All the victims were merely Petrified, except for a student named Myrtle Warren, who was killed in the girls' bathroom on the second floor. A sink in that bathroom concealed the entrance to the Chamber of Secrets. Those events were nearly the cause for the permanent closing of Hogwarts.
To avoid that undesirable consequence for Hogwarts, which was the closest thing that he had to a home, Riddle framed Gryffindor third-year Rubeus Hagrid for all the events, and claimed that Hagrid's pet Acromantula, Aragog, was responsible for the attacks. Hagrid was expelled, and the attacks stopped. However, Transfiguration Professor Albus Dumbledore became suspicious of Riddle and kept a very close watch over him during his remaining years at Hogwarts, thus preventing him from causing any further terror at the school since Riddle feared discovery. Dumbledore also convinced Armando Dippet, who was the Headmaster at that time, to allow Hagrid to stay at Hogwarts as gamekeeper.
However, Riddle did not want his five years of hard work in finding out about the Chamber go to waste, and left behind a diary, which he had purchased that same year. The diary contained a portion of his own soul, in the hope that one day it would allow him to reopen the Chamber and reawaken the Basilisk by possessing an unwitting host.
Second opening of the Chamber of Secrets
- "THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS HAS BEEN OPENED. ENEMIES OF THE HEIR, BEWARE."
- — The writing on the wall[src]
Fifty years after Riddle's original attack on Hogwarts, the Basilisk was re-awakened by a shade of Riddle that was generated by a Horcrux that he had housed in his old diary. That shade possessed Ginny Weasley after Lucius Malfoy had slipped the diary into her cauldron during a confrontation at Flourish and Blotts, as part of his plan to discredit her father, Arthur Weasley.
However, although Riddle/Ginny had killed all of the Hogwarts roosters to prevent them from being used against the Basilisk, no deaths occurred (Riddle implied that this was because of his obsession with exacting revenge on Harry Potter overrode even his desire to carry out his role in purging all of the Muggle-borns). The Basilisk managed only to petrify a few Muggle-born students and Argus Filch's cat, Mrs Norris. The victims only saw the snake's gaze indirectly, either through a reflection or through something, such as a camera (with Colin Creevey).
Nearly Headless Nick, a ghost, received the full force of the Basilisk's gaze, but as he was already dead, he was merely put into a Petrified-like state. Using his own ability as a Parselmouth, Harry was able to hear the Basilisk and attempted to find her.
Later in their search, Hermione Granger discovered the truth about the monster when reading a Magizoology book titled Most Macabre Monstrosities in the Hogwarts Library. She took to using a mirror to peer around corners, so she wouldn't accidentally come face to face with her. This precaution saved her life when she did indeed became one of the Basilisk's victims.
When visiting her in the Hospital Wing, Harry and Ron read a piece of torn page from the book, and learned that the monster was indeed a Basilisk. Hermione had written "pipes" on the fragment, leading the boys to the conclusion that the Basilisk had been using the plumbing to navigate around the castle. Harry and Ron (accompanied by a reluctant Gilderoy Lockhart), entered the Chamber of Secrets, where Ginny was held by Riddle. After he was separated from Ron and the self-Obliviated Lockhart, Harry entered the Chamber, where he encountered the soul of Riddle, who explained to him he was really Voldemort. When Riddle then commanded his Basilisk to kill Harry, a battle commenced between Harry and the Basilisk.
Battle with Harry Potter
- "Speak to me, Slytherin, greatest of the Hogwarts Four."
- — Riddle's fragmented soul summoning the serpent[src]
After the conversation between Harry and Riddle, the latter sent the Basilisk onto him. During the escape from Slytherin's serpent, Dumbledore's phoenix, Fawkes, came to the rescue. He was able to blind the Basilisk, which allowed Harry to fight her without the fear of being killed instantly by her gaze.
After a period of hiding and running from the basilisk through the pipes, Harry obtained Godric Gryffindor's sword. He obtained the sword from the Sorting Hat, which had been brought to him by Fawkes. Harry lured her to the top of the Statue of Slytherin, where he slashed at the evil beast fiercely. While on top of the statue he almost dropped the sword, but was able to regain his footing.
- "It lunged blindly — Harry dodged and it hit the Chamber wall. It lunged again, and its forked tongue lashed Harry’s side. He raised the sword in both his hands — The basilisk lunged again, and this time its aim was true — Harry threw his whole weight behind the sword and drove it to the hilt into the roof of the serpent’s mouth — But as warm blood drenched Harry’s arms, he felt a searing pain just above his elbow. One long, poisonous fang was sinking deeper and deeper into his arm and it splintered as the basilisk keeled over sideways and fell, twitching, to the floor."
- — Harry Potter slaying the Serpent of Slytherin with the Sword of Gryffindor[src]
The Basilisk lunged at him, and knocked Harry over, but just as she lunged again to kill him, Harry grabbed the sword and impaled the Basilisk through the roof of her mouth, mortally wounding her.
Unfortunately, one of her fangs pierced Harry in his sword arm as a result of the struggle, and splintered off as the Basilisk pulled away and flailed around in agony before she ultimately lost her ability to live and her massive weight finally brought her crashing down to the floor. Harry yanked the fang out, but knew it was too late: he had been wounded with her venom, and he felt the poison spreading. Harry was only saved by Fawkes' tears, and subsequently used the fang (on which his arm had been impaled) to destroy Riddle's diary, which he later discovered was one of Voldemort's seven Horcruxes.
By 1998, the Basilisk's corpse was fully decomposed, which left just a skeleton. Another one of the Basilisk's fangs was used once again by Hermione to destroy another Horcrux, Helga Hufflepuff's Cup. The first fang's venom, which was absorbed by the sword that slew it due to its taking in only that which made it stronger, allowed it to destroy Salazar Slytherin's Locket.
Personality and traits
- "KILL THE BOY! LEAVE THE BIRD! THE BOY IS BEHIND YOU. SNIFF — SMELL HIM."
- — Riddle's fragmented soul on the serpent's bloodlust[src]
The Basilisk was an extremely powerful and dangerous beast. A horrifying monster with dark green scales, that creature was a violent and bloodthirsty beast of titanic size, and had deep yellow eyes. She possessed incredible strength and durability (she survived smashing her head against thick stone) and was resistant to a majority of spells.
Direct contact with her gaze resulted in death, while an indirect look (or, in Nearly Headless Nick's case, getting a direct look and being a ghost) only resulted in Petrification, similar to the Gorgon's stare. In addition, her fangs were so venomous that she could kill any living creatures that she pierced within minutes, and were capable of destroying Horcruxes; the venom's potency remained even after five years of her death. Even when blinded (which took away her deadly gaze) she could still sense her prey through smell and sound, and proved to be extremely dangerous, if not more so, despite her disadvantage.
The Basilisk could breathe while submerged underwater, squeeze through the piping network of the school to go about undetected, and, by entering a state of hibernation, ceased to age as long as she remained asleep.
Though capable of independent thought, the Basilisk followed every command the Heir gave her. In fact, she only listened to the Heir of Slytherin, Tom Riddle (Voldemort) regardless of Harry being able to understand and speak Parseltongue to her in the Chamber of Secrets. It was possible that the Basilisk was trained, enchanted or persuaded to obey only the Heir of Slytherin and not all Parselmouths.
The Basilisk's personality was not particularly complicated. Reflecting the personality of her master, she was extremely bloodthirsty and sadistic (as opposed to Aragog), based on what she said when Harry listened to her attacking her victims. She was blindly and unshakably devoted to the Heir of Slytherin, for aforementioned reasons. She had nerves of steel, and ferociously continued her goals no matter how many obstacles she encountered - including being blinded by a phoenix, at which point she resorted to using smell rather than sight.
Known victims of the Basilisk
- "Come... Come to me... let me rip you... let me tear you..."
- — The Basilisk calling to its victims (Parseltongue, only heard by Harry)[src]
The following list shows all known Basilisk victims both Killed, Petrified, and otherwise harmed by the monster:
The only known victim of the Serpent who did not survive was Myrtle Warren, a Ravenclaw Muggle-born student killed by Basilisk's look on 13 June, 1943, when Tom Riddle opened the Chamber of Secrets and summoned the monster. Warren was crying in one of the bathroom's ceilings, when Riddle summoned the Basilisk, and when she showed up in order to tell him to go away, as they were in the girls' bathroom, the Basilisk stared at her and killed her. She eventually came back as a ghost and ended up haunting the bathroom where she died. Due to her habit of frequently crying, students nicknamed her Moaning Myrtle.
Godric Gryffindor's Sword, which was imbibed with the Basilisk's venom, destroyed Salazar Slytherin's Locket and Marvolo Gaunt's Ring, both of which also contained a piece of Riddle's Soul. The Sword also slew the snake Nagini, though the venom may not have been necessary to release the soul, due to the instability of Living Horcruxes.
The Basilisk attacked several students in 1943 and petrified them.
After the 1992 opening of the Chamber of Secrets, the Basilisk attacked five students and Argus Filch's cat, Mrs Norris, but all of them indirectly saw her eyes and were petrified. They eventually survived with no permanent injuries.
- Mrs Norris (saw her reflection in a puddle of water on the floor).
- Colin Creevey (saw her through the lens of his camera).
- Justin Finch-Fletchley (saw her through Nearly Headless Nick).
- Nearly Headless Nick (made direct eye contact, but was a Ghost, and could not die again).
- Hermione Granger (saw her in Penelope's mirror).
- Penelope Clearwater (saw her in her mirror).
- Harry Potter (her fang went into Harry's arm, who would have died if not healed by Fawkes' tears).
Behind the scenes
- At no point in the series was it explained how the Basilisk sustained herself. While Acromantulas feared her, they never described the serpent preying on them, and despite her bloodthirsty nature, the Basilisk never fed on any of her victims. That was especially noteworthy, because on the night she attacked Mrs Norris, she said "So hungry for so long".
- It is unclear as to how Tom Riddle controlled the basilisk without risking falling victim to her deadly eye gaze.
- In LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4, Harry did not get pierced by the Basilisk's fang and instead pulled it out of the dead Basilisk's mouth. Also, the Basilisk noticed Harry when Ginny screamed at one of his disembodied eyes. A third difference was that the Basilisk had a scarlet plume on its head, and thus its gender was male. Additionally, Ginny helped Harry during the battle as opposed to being unconscious the whole time.
- Ironically, the Basilisk that Voldemort had plotted to use to purge Hogwarts of Muggle-borns and Harry was used against him by having her venom destroy most of his Horcruxes, which led to his Final Downfall and Death. Even more ironic, Voldemort's Horcruxes that were not destroyed by the Basilisk's venom were each destroyed by Vincent Crabbe and by Voldemort himself.
- The original iteration of the Basilisk for the film adoption of Chamber of Secrets was that of a relatively simple snake-like appearance, but the concepts progressively began implementing subtle characteristics of other reptiles — such as monitor lizards and crocodiles — resulting in the creature taking on a more dragon-like appearance. While maintaining snake textures, one of the sculpting crew, Chris Fitzgerald, made the Basilisk’s skin endowed with osteoderms and other hard scales, while also giving eyes with functional eyelids and earholes, which real snakes do not have as their eyesight is poor and are deaf.
- The earholes and eyelids on the creature were inspired by legless lizards.
- Penelope Clearwater was the only victim of the 1992–1993 school year incident who was not a victim of Slytherin's Basilisk in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Still, there was a mirror next to Hermione's bed, but it was never mentioned that Penelope was with Hermione. Furthermore, in the film, Cornelius Fudge claimed that three Muggle-borns were attacked instead of four like in the book.
- The production crew created lifelike mannequins of the cast members whose characters were petrified on set.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, when Ron and Hermione entered the Chamber of Secrets, the skeleton of the Basilisk was still there, but appeared to be in a different spot than where Harry had killed her five years ago. However, it's common for decaying bodies to experience changes as they decompose, such as their bones parting or closing together because of the forces breaking down the body. A contributing factor may have been the rats in the Chamber of Secrets, which may have fed on the defeated serpent some time after her death. Also, in the film, the fang was used to destroy an additional Horcrux, Rowena Ravenclaw's Diadem.
- There is a discrepancy in the description of the size of the Basilisk between the novel and film versions, with the snake being implicitly described as being much larger in the latter. At the end of chapter 16 of the novel, when Harry, Ron and Lockhart find the snakeskin in the novel, the narration states that "the creature that had shed it must have been twenty feet long at least". In the corresponding scene in the film, Ron states "whatever shed this must be 60 feet long. Or more."
- The change of the Serpent of Slytherin's size in the film is most likely to make Harry's fight with the Basilisk seem more exciting and dangerous, as a twenty foot long snake would be closer in size to the python Harry releases at the zoo in the first film.
- It is also possible that, in the book, the snake skin that Harry, Ron and Lockhart found was from when the Basilisk was younger. As snakes grow throughout their lives, and continue to shed their skin as they do so, this would explain why it was much larger when Harry actually encountered it.
- In recalling his father reading the first two Harry Potter books to him, Daniel Radcliffe stated that his father had a great voice for the Basilisk. He suggested his father to Director Chris Columbus, and his father was mortified.
- Various medias have shown both the male and female depictions of the species for Slytherin's Basilisk. In the books, it seemed to be female: when Harry first saw it, he described it as "vivid, poisonous green" but made no mention of a red crown, which implied that either it had one and he simply didn't see it, or that the Basilisk was female. That was further supported by Pottermore, which depicted the snake with a distinct lack of a crown, red or otherwise. Though the voice Harry "hears" in the film sounds male, the Basilisk in the film likewise seems to lack a distinctive crown on its head.
- In the video game adaptations of Chamber of Secrets, the Basilisk tended to be depicted in colours. In the PC and Game Boy Color versions, she was not green, but purple, and attacked by spraying a purple stream of venom which Harry dodged. After failing to kill Harry from the mouth of Slytherin's Statue, the Basilisk popped up from the grating in the floor to try and bite or spray Harry. When she was killed, the Basilisk simply fell on Riddle's Diary, and presumably buried her fangs into the book and destroyed it. In the GBC version, however, Harry instead used the Sword of Gryffindor itself to destroy the diary.
- Also, in the console versions, the Basilisk was grey. To defeat her, Harry must fire a beam of light from Gryffindor's sword at the Basilisk's mouth/head when her weak-point was exposed in order to zap her (in the PS2 version, it was a black diamond-shape on her neck, while in the Xbox and Gamecube versions, it was her throat). Damaging it properly just once caused Harry to drop the Sword as it flung away to certain parts of the arena, and Harry rushed back up to it, picked it up again, and rinsed and repeated.
- In the Game Boy Advance version, Harry only cast spells at the Basilisk and the Sword was not mentioned at all.
- In the PlayStation version, the Basilisk was coloured blue, while she must be defeated in two phases akin to the PC version; Harry first cast Spells into her mouth, then in the second phase, used the Sword to direct venomous-laser beams that were fired from her fangs back at the said fangs.
- A giant snake that was used as a boss battle in LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures used the same model as the Serpent of Slytherin from the LEGO Harry Potter sets (though not the more detailed model used in LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4).
- The Basilisk's Death was the only known death in the series that occurred in 1993 (unless one counted the destruction of the Diary Horcrux as a death, in which case there were two deaths).
- As Salazar Slytherin's wand was made of Basilisk horn, it was possible that said horn came from that Basilisk.
- It was possible that the fact that Salazar Slytherin's Monster was a Basilisk was not made public even after its death, given Newt Scamander's 2017 Edition of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them still mentioned that there were no Basilisk sightings in Great Britain for centuries. It is also possible that Magizoologists disregarded this Basilisk's existence for having been artificially created by Salazar Slytherin, rather than a wild specimen who intentionally migrated to Britain.
- Jason Isaacs, who portrayed Lucius Malfoy in the film, supplied the "voice" of the Basilisk during its off-screen appearances, although he was uncredited.
- During the 1992–1993 school year, the second message left by the Heir of Slytherin during the Chamber of Secrets's opening read: "Her skeleton will lie in the Chamber forever." Though the message intended to refer to Ginny Weasley, who was taken into the Chamber, the Basilisk was in fact female. Her skeleton was still present in the Chamber when Ron and Hermione went there in 1998 to destroy Helga Hufflepuff's Cup using its fangs, which ironically fits the message.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (First appearance)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (video game)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (film) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (video game) (Mentioned only)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (Appears as a corpse)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Characters of the Magical World
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 5-7 (Appears as a corpse)
- Creator: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
- LEGO Harry Potter
- Harry Potter Trading Card Game
- Wizarding World
- Harry Potter for Kinect
- Harry Potter: The Creature Vault
- Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
- Harry Potter: Puzzles & Spells
- Harry Potter: Magic Awakened (In the Book with No Name)
Notes and references
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 9 (The Writing on the Wall)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 17 (The Heir of Slytherin)
- Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them -- male basilisks have a scarlet plume upon their head.
- Writing by J. K. Rowling: "Chamber of Secrets" at Wizarding World
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 15 (Aragog)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 18 (Dobby's Reward)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 13 (The Very Secret Diary)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 4 (At Flourish and Blotts)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 11 (The Duelling Club)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 10 (The Rogue Bludger)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 7 (Mudbloods And Murmurs)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 14 (Cornelius Fudge)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 16 (The Chamber of Secrets)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (film)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 31 (The Battle of Hogwarts)
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Chapter 8 (The Deathday Party)
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Chapter 23 (Horcruxes)
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Chapter 36 (The Flaw in the Plan)
- LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Blu-ray bonus - A Conversation with J.K. Rowling and Daniel Radcliffe